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Insurance industry leaders remember Robert Benmosche

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(Bloomberg) — Steve Miller called him tenacious. Steve Kandarian remembered his fighting spirit.

As Maurice “Hank” Greenberg put it, Robert Benmosche, who died Friday at 70 after leading two of the biggest U.S. insurers, “was a fighter.”

“If he had a fight, he’d fight,” Greenberg, who was chief executive officer of American International Group Inc. for almost four decades, said of Benmosche in an interview on Bloomberg Television Friday. “He stood up and fought for what he believed was right. That’s what a leader does, and he did that very well. I’m proud to have called him my friend.”

Benmosche’s career brought him to Chase Manhattan Bank and PaineWebber Inc. He later joined MetLife Inc., where he rose to CEO and took the company public, before retiring in 2006. He returned to insurance in 2009, joining AIG to help the company recover from the financial crisis and repay its bailout.

Below are comments of remembrance from industry leaders:

Peter Hancock, who took over AIG from Benmosche in September, in a memo to employees:

“People matter. Bob mattered, to many people in important ways. I raise my glass one last time to Bob Benmosche: a brave man living a bold life, a person who was everything he chose to be.”

Donald Marron, chairman and founder of Lightyear Capital, who led PaineWebber from 1980 to 2000:

“He was always somebody who could focus on exactly what were the most important things to do, and then get them done,” Marron said. “He was right to the point, that’s for sure. Straightforward, result-oriented, and didn’t get distracted.”

Steve Kandarian, CEO of MetLife, the insurer that Benmosche transformed from a mutual to a stock company in 2000:

“Throughout his career, even after leaving MetLife, Bob was a fighter. More than anything else, that fighting spirit is what Bob will be remembered for, and it should serve as an inspiration.”

Steve Miller, AIG’s non-executive chairman:

“Bob was one of the most inspirational and successful leaders in corporate America by any measure. We will never forget that under Bob’s extraordinary leadership, the people of AIG repaid America in full plus a profit.”

Kenneth Feinberg, the attorney who negotiated executive pay with AIG and other companies that took a U.S. government bailout:

“He was a man of his word,” Feinberg said. “I really enjoyed working with him and even though there were some real battles that I had with him over pay, after we were through, we’d walked out of Treasury, we’d walk down the street, we’d chuckle, we’d get a drink.”

–With assistance from Jing Cao in New York.